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Worst Bird of Prey Killing Ever

Two men charged with Cyprus falcon massacre

Two men have been charged in connection with the October 5 massacre of 52 Red-footed Falcons Falco vespertinus in the Phasouri area of Cypus, within the Akrotiri British Sovereign Base Area (SBA). The accused, from the Limassol area, pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry a penalty of up to three years imprisonment or a fine of £10,000 (€17,000), or both. The court set the first hearing for the trial for January 8. The shocking massacre of the migrating falcons – the worst incident of bird of prey killing ever reported in Cyprus – made headlines across Europe after BirdLife Cyprus released shocking pictures of the gunned down birds. The shot falcons – a species of global conservation concern – appear to have been hit for target practice. The two suspects, arrested on October 12th following a swift SBA Police investigation, appeared before an SBA court at Episkopi on Tuesday and were charged with deliberate killing of protected birds and unlawful possession of shotguns in a ‘no hunting’ area. After the October massacre, the SBA police and Cyprus Game Fund said they were stepping up joint anti-poaching patrols in the Akrotiri area. The main problem on the peninsula in recent years has been the absence of such joint action. Taking advantage of this enforcement gap, illegal hunters have profited along the ‘border’ between the SBA and Republic, simply stepping across the dividing line to avoid either SBA Police or Game Fund patrols.

“We will not be taking our eye off the general poaching situation at Akrotiri or the falcon trial – we expect firm action in both areas,” said BirdLife Cyprus Manager Martin Hellicar. The Red-footed Falcon is a small, migratory falcon and a colonial species that nests and migrates in groups. Strictly protected everywhere in the EU, the Red-footed Falcon has suffered severe declines in its main, eastern European breeding range in recent decades and is classified as Near Threatened. The falcon is also listed in Annex I of the EU Birds Directive, which means Member States are obliged to make a special effort to conserve it.

4th July 2014